Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Mother's Day has had mixed emotions for me for a long time. See, my mother left us on my 16th birthday. Yes, you read that right. ON my BIRTHDAY! And while we maintained the semblance of a relationship for the next 13 years, it was never what you might call healthy. My mother, along with other fun aspects of her personality, has the propensity of emotional abuse. It is the language that she speaks. She cannot help it. And while I am old enough now to realize that she must have suffered a great hurt at a young age to be so toxic herself, her abuse of my brother and I scarred us deeply. The end of that story is that 2 1/2 years ago, after trying to create a relationship that was safe for me and my children, I realized she was not able to live in a relationship with boundaries and could not be trusted with my kids hearts. I

However, the result of my relationship with her and her leaving us was one of pure disgust for Mother's Day. Every year, in May, when all the pink and purple cards and balloons and store-front announcements of special meals or free desserts would appear, I would roll my eyes and grit my teeth. There were times that I felt absolutely violent about Mother's Day. I vowed that I would not get married and I would certainly never have children whose lives I could damage so badly.

But God...and that is how all our story's turn, when God intercedes on our behalf...sent some amazing women into my life to be surrogate mothers to me. Mother's who, though I was not theirs and not their problem, stood in the gap and loved on me, taught me to love, showed me God's glory through love and generosity. These women came at different times and phases, some only for a season, but all have been a part of who I have become and I am truly grateful. Their love began softening my heart. Changing my view of motherhood and wife-hood. Thank you Dianne Massey, Karren Tedrow, Debbie Fung-A-Fat, Mary Hudgins, and others.

College was difficult at times. I had some more "but God..." experiences, where He brought me what I now call my "Iron Women", friends who love and refine me through our friendship. "As iron sharpens iron, so one (wo)man sharpens another." That was true of these friends. However, with only one exception, all of my best friends in high school and college have the most amazing relationships with their mothers. It was hard at times watching them love and get loved on by mothers when mine was incapable of loving me right. But it was also good and healthy for me to see. And of course, their moms loved on me too. They couldn't help it. As moms their love just flowed out around them like a wave and washed over anyone standing there. I was invited into homes and on trips. I was sent food and gifts. I was cooked for and loved on and shown God's adoptive love by these amazing women too. Thank you Pam Horn, Lynda Sandlin, Rhonda Warren, Denise Thompson and others.

And now, I am a mother. I have 4 precious sons who call me "Momma" and they are my delight. They are treasures from God, that show me more of Him every day. Their wonder at His creation teaches me awe of His might. Their free love and affection teach me delight at His love. Even their depravity shows me the depth of His grace and mercy. That He would call us out of our foolish pride into His salvation and sanctification. But moreover, that He would allow me, the broken, selfish, stubborn woman that I am bear these boys, cradle them, nurse them, watch them grow. That He would give me the honor of raising them to manhood, teaching them about Him, calling them to surrender their lives to Him, training them them up. Who am I? I don't deserve it. I'm a wounded, sinful woman who is in such great need of His grace that I dare not draw a breath without His strength. I have sinned against Him and against my children numerous times a day. But God...and there He goes again...

But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

And part of his immeasurable riches toward me is my four amazing boys: Judah, Gideon, Elijah and Levi. And I am His workmanship (he's still working on me) created in Christ Jesus for good works to them. And by His grace, I will walk in those good works, not of my own works or my own strength, but His, mothering these boys in the Grace, Glory, Greatness and Goodness of Jesus Christ!  

As usual, Christ is about the business of Redeeming. Redeeming me. Redeeming my past. Redeeming my family. 

This is a Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Phobias and Plagues

If you do not live in Central Texas. If you do not have a pecan tree in your yard. If you do not own and/or live in an older house, the rest of this post may sound horrific to you. It is. But it is also just life for us, and for better or worse here it is: we have roaches. Not cockroaches. Not those little boogers that infest your cabinets and set up home and have 2000 children in your pantry. No. Those are terrible and if you have to deal with those or try to root them out, I'm so deeply sorry. I'm sure it's a nightmare. But that's not our particular issue here. No, these are water roaches. Water roaches are about 20 times that size, do not infest your house, but do like to meander through on exploratory trips now and then.

Water roaches like pecan trees. Scratch that. Water roaches LOVE pecan trees. they like to live between the loose bark and the inner tree. But when it gets too damp, or not damp enough, they will pursue water where they can find it. That means local houses. That means OUR house. And they are my biggest fear.

See water roaches have no natural offensive mechanisms. They do not bite. They do not sting. They are not poisonous. They do not hurt you. Because they do not have to. No. You will be too busy hurting yourself trying to get away from them. With a lack of offensive strategy they have one big defensive strategy. They are ugly, gross and will run and fly right at you if they become aware you are in the room. Terrible. Terrible!

So, in June, we will have owned our home for 4 years. I love our house. It's a 1930's style home with a huge front porch, complete with swing, 12 foot ceilings on the ground floor, big windows and a back deck. But there, in the back yard, big as Christmas is a towering pecan tree. Home to 4000 of the worlds most hateful and demonic water roaches you will ever see. These guys are huge, they are ugly, they are fast, they can fly and they love nothing in the world so much as terrorizing me. And it's worse this year than ever!! For the last 3 years we've been in a terrible drought, which, as bad as its been for plants and an animals and (God bless you) the farmers, its been that bad for the insects too. I have not thanked God enough for that. Because this year it started to rain again. And the mosquitoes, flies, cane flies, moths, June bugs, beetles, worms and lady bugs have come back! And so have the water roaches.

To paint the picture a bit more clearly. I'm also pregnant. Due 2 days ago. That's right! 40 weeks and 2 days pregnant is never a fun time, but when there are roaches involved...oh sisters and brothers, let me testify it has gotten ugly. And instead of being gentle about it, these hateful creatures have come out in full attack against me! Me! Two days ago, after 4 hours of false labor, as I was getting out of the tub, reconciling to the fact that I was not having my baby yet, I pulled a towel out of the cabinet and a roach that had been on the towel, hiding, waiting for the perfect opportunity to attack, leapt off of the towel and onto my very person!! He was touching me!! On my poor, distended, overdue pregnant belly! The horror of it cannot be put into words. I knocked him off and went screaming naked from the bathroom, towel abandoned on the floor, streaking past my 3 boys and hollering at my husband, "It was on me! It was on me! It was on me!" The adrenaline rush alone should have popped this baby right out! Ugh!

Then, in a (sadly typical) burst of heartburn at 4 yesterday morning, I went to the kitchen to find something to ease the fire in my esophagus, only to find the kitchen invaded by (count them) 4 of the enemy troops! I surrendered the battle and returned to bed. My saint of a husband got up and killed them all and got me a glass of milk. But when he returned to our bedroom to give it to me, he found one on the ceiling and one on the floor of our bedroom! SIX IN ONE NIGHT!! They are in full attack mode, trying to drive me insane and getting close to succeeding.

Now, I really think this would be bad enough on anyone. My husband is level headed and a gifted roach-killer and it's straining his nerves. But after trying to be tough, to reason and rationalize myself about these bugs, I finally came to the conclusion last year that this is a phobia for me. I am terrified of them. I don't mean in an "Ewww! I'm a girl and I hate bugs!" way. No. I like a lot of bugs. I'll catch grasshoppers, lady bugs and caterpillars. I help the boys with their snail obsession. I'm not squeamish. And stinging insects don't even rattle me. Bees, wasps, spiders, scorpions...I"m bigger than them and I have a good fly swatter. But roaches. Roaches are a whole different story. I'll absolutely turn into a 4th grade girl and climb the walls trying to get away. I'll nearly give myself a heart attack if one comes at me. And I surrender the house to them. I just pack up the kids and we leave until Daddy can get home and rescue us. Except I really don't want my boys to be sissies. So, I've had to toughen up, so they can toughen up. And now, I have 2 budding roach killers and a 2 year old who brags about "Saving momma from the 'tot-row'". But I cannot deny my abject fear of them. It's unreasonable. It's irrational. It's inconvenient. But there it is. I'm flat out freaked out by roaches.

So here I sit tonight wondering if there is a safe place to sleep where one will not wander across me in the middle of the night and cause a brain aneurism. If I wasn't waiting to have this baby, it might be a good time of year to go see family. Family that lives where no roach ever dreamed of going. Family whose homes are safe from the plague.

Oh, I know people who think God is a big meanie, who makes up arbitrary rules and smites people with his wrath. But I know He is gracious and good and longs for all to come to repentance because of all 10 plagues he sent on Egypt not ONE was WATER ROACHES!!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Faithfulness in the wait

As a church planters wife, there's lots of fun and exciting ways to WAIT! Wait on your husband to get home, wait on your redemption group to show up to start, wait on your children to get to the car, wait to find out if you are approved, wait to see if the support checks are coming in, wait to see if you get to pay ALL your bills this month or just a few, wait to find out if we can meet in that place for our Sunday night gathering...wait...wait...wait.

I'll be the first (in a long line of people who can testify) that no matter which spiritual inventory you give me, you will not find "Waiting" on the list of my spiritual gifts. In fact, it's more of a "Hey, you're really good at....but you should work on patience and trusting God in the interim" situation with me. So I will let you know that waiting on God or Jonathan or a group or a person or my children is nearly physically painful at times.

On top of which, I'm waiting to have my 4th baby right now. Yup. I'm pregnant. My due date is 3 days away and this is the longest I've ever been pregnant. My first was born 4 weeks early and my next 2 were both 1 week early. So going past 39 weeks feels overdue to me. I recognize this as not only silly, but whining. That doesn't seem to change my hormonal reaction to it. Every pressure, every Braxton Hicks, every bump of the baby leaves me hopeful, and the ensuing lack of results leaves me almost despondent. It's a wild roller coaster right now. You can pray for my husband.

But what I realized the other day was that this pregnancy is a beautiful picture of what this church planting process has been like for me: complete lack of control! God is dealing with my heart idol of control on both issues. I can feed myself well, get rest and exercise, pray diligently and mostly...just...wait. The rest is totally and completely up to Jesus and his work. For the church, I pray for my husband, our core, those God is calling, I read my Bible and I repent of my depraved heart and foolish ways, I acknowledge and repent of my heart idols, and I obey what Jesus asks me to do. But I can't actually GROW the church, MAKE people come, PUSH the process faster. It will happen when it happens, how God wants it to happen and in His perfect timing.

This morning during worship we sang "Lead me to the Cross" and God's word to me rang out loud and clear through the chorus. "Rid me of myself...." I've been so wrapped up in my schedule that I want to happen, my methods, my desires, even my discomfort and frustration that I have been all mired down in ME instead of rooted and grounded in Him. And I am not bringing glory to Him through my exasperation with either "birthing" process, the baby or the church. My impatience and petulance does not glorify Him.

So, I threw my hands up and testified that "I belong to You, so lead me, lead me to the Cross." And there it is: the Gospel. That Jesus is enough. Enough for me as I await this baby. Enough for me as I await the launch of Redemption Church. That my impatience and idol of control just reveals the depravity that is my enemy and Jesus' beautiful patience and grace towards me on the cross is enough to cover and redeem even that. "Naught of good that I have done; nothing but the blood of Jesus."

Thank you Lord for being bigger than my pettiness. Greater than my failings. Gracious in my selfishness. Good to me even when I'm throwing a fit. And more glorious than all my worries, wants, whims and wishes! You are Lord! You are faithful! Even in my waiting....

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Balancing Act

I don't really believe in trying to achieve "balance". For one thing I find it an ambiguous term at best, usually used to push increasing your time/money/awareness of something someone else finds vital. As in, "You need to increase your time spent exercising! Learn to balance!" I also find it impossible to attain! So mainly trying to find balance in my life just puts all the weight on "guilty". I end up feeling badly that I spent that hour exercising instead of reading to my kids, or folding clothes instead of reading the Bible, or blogging instead of vacuuming!

However, I have found that in another sense, my entire life is a balancing act. Not putting the same amount of value, priority, time and energy into everything that wants my attention, but the precarious act of walking the thin line directly in front of me. So not a "scale" balance but a "beam" balance.

I tend to be a tad ADD. I have a hard time staying focused on one project, one book, one TV show, one child, one goal at a time. I want to do it all (which is fine) right now (which is impossible). I can't pursue my Master's Degree, home school 2 children, make all my bread from scratch, train to be a midwife, get to know all my neighbors, support my husband in the church plant, host a Redemption group at my house, join a co-op, grow a garden and have an infant all in the same year. I just can't. That's really difficult and painful for me to admit.But there it is. Hi, my name is Jennifer and I am not superwoman.

So I have to focus. I have to pick. I have to put one foot in front of the other and take only the next step. Sometimes that next step is a cartwheel, or the splits or even a leap. But there's only one place to land, one area to come down on, so much room to maneuver. I can make it pretty, graceful and land with a flourish, but I have to stay on a certain track. That grates on me! My personality says I'm really more of a interpretive dancer. But God has said, "No Ma'am!"

So here we are. I'm chomping at the bit to go further and faster with Redemption Church plant. I want to have large BBQs in our neighborhood, have all the neighbors over one-by-one for dinner, find a place to meet on Sunday mornings, learn how to play the guitar (someone has to lead worship...) and do it yesterday! But alas, I'm 3 weeks from my due date with baby #4. I'm picking homeschool curriculum for Baby #1 & #2. I just finished potty training Baby #3 and my house is almost clean. That's pretty much all the room on my plate today. Even if I had my neighbors over, they might feel a bit awkward if my water breaks! If I planned a big Easter Egg hunt, who's going to buy, fill and hide those eggs.

So for now, I trust in God's sovereign timing. He created this baby. He called us to this town. He is pouring out His Spirit, in His timing and His Way. He is whispering to me to "Be still and know that I am God. Those who wait on ME will soar on wings like Eagles. Strength will rise as you wait upon me. Unless I build the house, he who builds it labors in vain. TRUST ME!"

So, next step...

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Go where I send thee...or stay where I tell you to!

I've been avoiding blogging.

I've also been very busy growing a 4th son, raising the 3 I have, homeschooling a 1st grader, being a wife/daughter/sister/friend, cooking food and even occasionally cleaning my house.

But I have thought about blogging, intended on blogging, written several blog posts in my head, but never actually set down and typed. Mainly because we had good news that needed to be shared in an official order to be appropriate and here was not the place.


We are staying in Temple, Texas to plant a church.

After much prayer, fleece laying out, seeking direction and godly counsel and finally surrender to God's undeniable leading, He has made it very clear: We are to stay put and plant here.

That came as both a relief and a shock to me. We had initially planned on planting in Temple, but were advised to consider Madison based on our personalities (read hippie/natural/crunchy and not-main-stream-political). While I wasn't thrilled at the prospect, I had diligently asked God to give me a heart for Madison, and on that issue He was absolutely faithful. I still pray for Madison and the churches being planted there and men ministering to that great city: that the Gospel will come in power, that there will be repentance and a great out-pouring of His Holy Spirit. We just won't be there to see it in person!

However, God made it abundantly clear that we were called to plant in North Temple and that meant shifting gears. A LOT of gears. We realized that despite packing up most of our belongings for nearly a year, we were staying in this house. While we had been unplugging and pulling up roots, we needed to put them back down again. While we had been visioning, dreaming and praying for Madison, a city we barely knew, we were supposed to be visioning, dreaming and praying for Temple, a city we had stopped engaging. It was wild. It was weird. It was totally God's way of working with us.

But once He made His will clear, He also made the way clear. It has been humbling and honoring to watch Him at work in this calling. When we surrendered to plant in Temple, the vision and dream and prayers began flowing. We had to slow down a bit actually because we almost tripped over ourselves getting excited about blessing and redeeming this city. We began meeting and connecting with people who have a passion and desire that matches our own to bring the Gospel to the unreached people of Temple, to utilize the resources already present, to redeem the very culture growing here for His Glory!

We also of course got the standard church planting questions: Are there not already churches in Temple?

Well, first I would say that is the wrong question. The Right question MIGHT be: Are there Gospel-preaching churches in Temple? Of course! There are churches in Temple, Belton and Killeen that are preaching the Gospel and reaching people for Jesus. We are not reinventing the wheel here. But my question back is: Can one church or even 10 effectively minister to the 60,000+ people within the city limits? Or the 300,000+ of the Bell County area? No! Until everyone is reached with the Gospel, new church plants are not a waste. New church plants for the sake of being "different" is idolatry. But new church plants with the vision and calling of reaching different people groups, cultures and demographics or simply those who have not been engaged by existing churches is Biblical and godly. Viewing another church or a new church plant as "hostile" or "encroaching" is simply not putting the Gospel above our egos. And the results do not lie: the fastest way to spread the Gospel is new churches. New Christians begat New Christians. We are called to "go!".

 So, we're staying...

In Temple!

And we're excited. Excited to stay near friends and family. Excited for what God is doing through our friends, our Redemption group, our neighborhood. Excited about where God is calling us, whom He's calling us to and who is being called to us. It's a time of new beginnings, not only for our little one due in 5 weeks, but for a church that God is raising up that we have the honor of being a part of.